by Brent Gill
SHANGHAI AND HOME
September 14, 2006
The last full day in China, around Shanghai, a final Chinese dinner, and a ride on a real bullet train.
Though a bit blurry, this is a perfect example of the hanging clothes seen all over China.
The Bund District, in Shanghai. The old section of town is to the right, and the newest area to the left side of the river.
The slender structure with the bulbs is the Oriental Bright Po TV Tower. All the area surrounding this was farm land, growing crops, only 15 years before.
These buildings are all less than 15 years old.
The Wall Street of Shanghai. These European-style buildings used to house banks and finance companies from Europe. They would look right at home in Paris, or Frankfurt.
Sharon looking over a display case of possible things to take home. This was along the banks of the Yu River.
This young woman can create 4 rows per 8-hour day. She makes $90 per month. It will take her 13 months to complete this silk-on-silk carpet.
This is a very old, hewn wood-pole weaving machine. Obviously it still works.
This 9 x 12 ft carpet, silk-on-silk, sells for ... ONLY ... $75,000 US.
The Mongolian BBQ cooking surface.
The route from parking to China Town in Shanghai.
The crowd was heavy in China Town on our last day in the country.
Yes, even in China Town in Shanghai, you will find a Starbucks.
A street vendor selling some very nice looking watermelon.
This young lady is holding the 3 stick-pins Sharon bought for 54 Yuan.
Sharon is comparing prices, and pendants for gifts to take home.
Our second Tour Guide, Arthur.
Yes, it really DID travel at 431 Km/H.
Flanking the entryway is often a pair of lions. On the right side of the door is the male, with his right front foot on a ball, as a playful and just guardian.
And on the left side of the entryway, is a Female Lion. Her left front foot is resting on an infant, as the care-giver.
Monday, July 24 – 6:45 PM
Our final full day in China has come to a close. We are all dead tired for we have been going at full speed since we arrived at the bus in Porterville about (what seems like) a century ago!
This morning we did not have to depart the hotel until 8:30 AM, which was 30 minutes later than we've been leaving most mornings. That was a treat, for we had a little more time to slow down and enjoy breakfast, visit more with friends or family.
In the bus this morning, we first went to the River Walk along the Yu River. On the west side of the river, the buildings are very European in flavor and architecture. Many buildings could be plucked out of Shanghai and dropped into London or Paris, or any number of European cities. Check out the pictures and you will see what I mean.
But, on the East side of the river Yu, you see huge high rise buildings, the highest TV tower (the thing with the big bulbous balls on it) in Asia, the highest hotel (Hyatt) in China. And ... most amazingly ... that entire area was farming land 16 years ago! Check it out.
There were some shops there, underneath the walking area, which also serves as a built-up bank for the river. Incidentally, it is only about 30KM down river to the China Sea.
Sharon was looking in one of the shops when I got her picture. I found that the merchant also carried a replacement battery for my camera. He had the actual correct model in a Canon package at that (is it real Canon? - who knows?) but it is in the charger right now, and appears to be taking a charge. We shall see.
I asked him how much. 240 Yuan ($30 USD). I offered him 200 Yuan (barter is expected) but he would not budge. So I stepped away from the counter as if I was leaving, waving him off over my shoulder.
"OK. OK Mister ... make it 220 Yuan" ($24.60 USD). I paid $65 from a camera outlet in New York a couple of years ago so I figured that $24.60 was a reasonable bet to lay down to see if it will work. It appears to be taking a charge very normally, but we shall see tomorrow how long it lasts. At that price, even if it is a piece of junk, it was worth the bet.
Then it was off to the Silk Carpet Factory, where we saw young women making carpets from silk. The first picture of the yellow carpet is a Silk-On-Silk carpet. The thread is silk and so are the vertical threads. This makes for the finest product but is amazingly slow to make. The young woman can produce 4 rows a day in an 8-hour day. At that rate, the carpet you see in that picture will take 13 months!
Note the rather OLD weaving machine. Those really are hewn logs for vertical pieces! And, obviously, it still works nicely.
Then it was off to the Mongolian BBQ in the same building. This is common for many of these Government-run stores we have been taken to visit. We went through a line, picked out meat and vegetables, added whatever oil we wanted on the mix, then took it to the window.
The cooks would throw it out on that big flat cooking surface, pour a quarter-pitcher of water on it all, stir it back and forth, until it was all cooked. Then with a huge flourish, they swept if off the cooking surface, into your bowl. Pour it all out on your plate and dinner was served. Good stuff, that.
After lunch it was off to the China Town (really!) of Shanghai. This is a huge shopping area with all KINDS of shops and a beautiful garden very nearby. Walking along the street, looking at some of the first vendors, we began to smell China Town. Not really pungent, but a definite odor. Some areas were more noticeable than others. Those were usually near a restaurant or eating establishment. Nobody with a Western stomach and makeup would THINK of eating from these vendors of food, but they abound. The watermelon vendor did look like he had good fruit, though.
We all went to the garden first, wandering through there while getting some great pictures. Then it was into the shopping area to get serious about finishing out our list of gifts we had to buy for the folks at home. The shoppers were literally wall-to-wall. It was VERY crowded, very busy.
We were told NOT to carry things in our pockets. I have been carrying my $1 and $5 bills, nicely folded over, in my left pocket, and keeping my camera at the ready in my right pocket. But, that was not going to do for a high-risk of pickpockets area. So, the money went into my shoulder pouch, and the camera into one of the front pockets where it was easily accessible. Much of the time I carried it in my hand, with the strap looped around my wrist for security.
I felt only one bump, though I was pretty diligent about being careful. The bump turned out to be a youngster with his Chinese parents, and I THINK it was innocent. But he didn't get any zippers undone nor did I feel his hand in my pocket. So I suspect he just bumped me.
The first little girl and I bartered for the three stick-pins for Sharon's hair. She will wear them when she dresses up in her very beautiful red jacket or black jacket that we bought a couple of days ago. The price was 30 Yuan each, or 90 ($11.25) But she and I haggled back and forth until I think I got them for 54 Yuan for all three. ($6.75)
Then the next girls were at a Jade counter where we picked up more last-minute items. Sharon would find the product she wanted and ask for a price. When we were given a price I would have a fit, while Sharon just kept quiet. This worked out pretty well, for she is HORRIBLE at haggling and just does not enjoy it. She let me have my fun at it while she stood around and looked pretty.
I often offered about 40% of what they first asked. That would usually get them down around 50% somewhere. Then the fine-tooth bartering began. The young woman at the jade counter was fun and a very good sport. We both had a good time. I love to barter and find it rather entertaining.
The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping. I finally gave up, and resorted to sitting on the front steps (to the right of the front door) of the Starbucks in the picture. Sharon got a Mocha Frappaccino, and I got a Coffee Grande. By the time the coffee was gone, it was nearly 5:00 and we were to all meet at 5:15 for dinner.
Once we were together we walked a couple of blocks (or more - maybe 3) to a good Chinese restaurant for our last dinner in China.
Some of the folks decided that they would go on a boat ride on the Yu River to see the night lights of the city. That was just not in my plan for the night.
First I knew that I wanted to get 125 pictures posted on the web from today's activity. I also wanted to get this written.
Sharon had a chance to go to get a foot massage for $10 (80 Yuan) tonight, so decided to take advantage of that. Sharon left saying that they were to get a FOOT massage for $10. She was back very briefly wanting another 100 Yuan bill, for she said, "Now the group wants to get MORE?" So ... I have NO idea what they are getting themselves into.
We had a funny experience last night. In Beijing we had wonderful masseuses who came to the room to give great massages for $25 for a 90 minute massage, starting with the feet. When they heard that there was the same thing offered here in Shanghai several people jumped at it.
But they were a bit taken aback when they learned that they had to go to a different hotel for the massage. Oh well, they figured, whatever. They were lead into a room with 6 couches, men and women together, told to disrobe totally and get up on the couch for their massage!
Needless to say, the trip to their massage ... was very short. They returned to their rooms telling the tale. Of course, we all got a huge giggle out of that.
This will be nearly the last e-mail from China. You may get a brief note in the morning from me, just before I shut down for the journey home. But the adventure is nearly over. It has been very good in all reality. A few minor problems, but that is to be expected in traveling to a foreign country half way around the world!
I sure hope that you have enjoyed reading along. There are so many stories, so many experiences, that I am going to have to go through the pictures carefully, look at all of them, and remember what was happening at THAT point. But, with 666 pictures saved onto the Kodak web site, I have plenty to choose from. (ultimately there were 731 pictures posted)
We will be home in Springville around 5:00 PM Tuesday afternoon. The flight from Shanghai to LAX is supposed to be shorter (11:30 vs 12:45) going west than it was coming east. We depart on China Eastern flight MU583 at 2:55 PM from Shanghai. That will be 11:55 PM Monday evening for you guys. That should put us on the ground in LA before Noon. We have to clear customs, and then on home. Once we clear U.S. Customs, we board our bus and should be home in 3:30 driving time. Hopefully that will be around 4:00 - 5:00 in Porterville. Regardless, we will be home by evening.
I have had a lot of fun writing these notes, and from the response of some of you, you have enjoyed tagging along in my hip pocket.
Brent and Sharon in Shanghai.
Monday, July 24 – 9:30 PM
I will be shutting down my computer around 9:00 - 10:00 AM Tuesday morning. This will be about 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM PDT Monday evening. Anything sent to me after that will not be received until I arrive back in Springville and hook up my computer again!
Brent in Shanghai ... it's BEDTIME!
Tuesday, July 25 – 7:40 AM
It is go-home day and we are essentially all packed. These big duffles have been absolutely wonderful. Amazing how much stuff can be put in them.
Additionally, we brought two smaller duffles, more in the 24 inch size (in length) which are both stuffed. One has our Silk Pillows in the main compartment all by themselves. There are underwear and shirts in the end pockets on that one. The other one has lots of the souvenir stuff in it, but that is mostly soft, but is fairly heavy.
But ... the big duffles are loaded with all manner of things. Some are fairly heavy, and of significant size. One is a statue that Sharon bought yesterday around China Town here in Shanghai. It is in a box about 6 inches square, and probably at least 24 inches tall. It is laid down in my duffle, with pants, shirts underwear, etc, all packed around it. One crushable piece has socks and underwear stuffed inside, and around it all over, so that it has some serious padding.
All our plastic bags, well MOST of our plastic bags, have been taken out of the bags. We came in from Europe one time, and U.S. Customs was just SURE that Sharon MUST be carrying drugs with all the ziplock baggies she had stuff in. But, it sure has been a good way to carry things until now.
I put all my shirts and pants in individual gallon freezer ziplock bags. When I took them out of the suitcase to wear they were certainly not perfect, but were in amazingly good shape.
I will wear my scrub pants on the plane. They are not very fashionable, but they are VERY comfortable. And on this flight and journey home I intend to be as comfortable as possible.
So the bags are nearly ready to lock down and strap together in piggy-back fashion. One of the nice features of The North Face duffles, are the 3 binder straps across the top. We traveled from HoJo's to here with one of the small duffles strapped to the top of the big duffle. We will go home with both big expedition-type duffles having a smaller duffle piggy-backed onto it. Should we have to unpack anything at U.S. Customs it is certainly not that hard to unstrap. Then putting them back on top and strapping them down again is just a few moments of effort.
Once again, I am totally amazed at the expandability and flexibility of a soft-sided duffle. They work very well for us, and will sure carry a ton of stuff home in great security. Several other travelers in our group have come over and looked at our bags, especially when I had the one already piggy-backed.
It is time to shower and shave and head for breakfast. We do not have to have our bags in the lobby until 10:30 which is a bit over 2:30 from now. We will be rolling at 11:00 for Pudong International Airport, go through security, get our big bags checked in, and get our boarding passes. We have a rather long wait, so there will be time to eat at the airport before we have to be at our boarding area and be ready to fly out at 2:55 PM.
Once we get on the plane, and are in flight, I will set all my time pieces to PDT.
I hear Sharon drying her hair so it is just about my turn in the bathroom.
Tuesday, July 25 – 9:30 AM
Some wandering thoughts as I waited to go board the bus for our trip home.
I am so full of memories, and of all the sights and sounds we have seen.
Last Saturday, when we took a boat ride on the Grand Canal in Suzhou, we got off in a rather poor part of town. Shops and buildings along streets that were stone paved. Merchants cooking beside the street, and the smell ... wow, the smell ... it was not especially acrid or nasty smelling but definitely present. Dirt, cooking, water from the canal, all added to the cloud of scent floating everywhere.
The canal was reasonably clean. In fact, I would say that it was cleaner than the Venice canals. Of course, that is a relative thing, for I would NOT have wanted to go bathe in it. I am certain that one drink would have put me in extremely close friendship with the local porcelain.
Several of us on the tour have been afflicted with diarrhea, some much worse than others. But, it seems that very few have evaded entirely. Most of us have Imodium and it appears to be treatable. It seems that it has a natural course however which may take 2-3 days to run the course of the malady. If one is to come to this area it should be anticipated that your body will contract the bug, you will display the symptoms, and you will need the medication. Bring the pills, expect the problem and deal with it as best you can. Hopefully the body will not be too badly abused by the bug.
I have always been told that you carry your passport with you AT ALL TIMES when you are in a foreign country. It is your ticket out of any country, and it is certainly your ticket back into the U.S. Accordingly I have a rectangular pouch that I wear around my neck. This carries not only my passport, but has a nice long pocket for my airline ticket.
But in THIS weather, I perspire heavily. And, the pouch gets pretty soaked. In fact, my passport, my ticket, and the pouch are all hanging on the light over the computer here that has a tubular arm to it, drying. The airline ticket was so stuck together the other day, that I had to let it dry a bit before I dared try to pull the pages apart. And my passport really looks used and abused. They are all drying out however, and they still work. Which is all I want them to do anyway.
Nearly time to pack this thing and get around. I am still in a bit of amazement as to how easily the bags got packed this morning. Sharon was thinking that maybe she was going to have to take the statue to a friend's room and see if SHE could pack it away. When I slipped it down into the side of my bag we were both rather tickled.
We can eat breakfast anytime between 6:30 and 10:00 AM so my guess is we will be down at breakfast around 8:30-8:45. That will give us some time to be a bit leisurely in our preparations. We might even be able to go for a little walk.
I shot one picture yesterday, the very first one I think, that was of the back side of an apartment building right next to our hotel. The hanging clothes make quite a sight. I asked Arthur why it seems that everybody hangs clothing when they could own a dryer. He replied that it was just the way they do things, and when I asked him why didn't they buy dryers he looked at me funny, and said, "Why would they want to?" It is a part of the culture that you hang clothes out to dry in the air.
The humidity is so high that it takes a long time for anything heavy to dry out. I washed a pair of socks on Sunday evening as I ended up one pair short for the trip home. They are still a wee bit dampish this morning, Tuesday, at least 36-40 hours later. They have been hanging up with air to both sides the entire time.
There is a huge cultural influence here that often controls the way people think and act. If it is just the way it has always been done, that is the way it is going to be done. The younger people will probably change that, but it may well be 2, 3 maybe even 4 or 5 generations before real serious change is accomplished.
Nobody owns land here. You lease the land from "the government" who is seen as the benevolent, all-knowing, all giving entity. It is sort of a Smiling Buddha of governmental power. You lease the land, and then you can build a house. However, if "the government" decides that they want to use the land for some other reason, you are relocated. Take the Three Gorges Dam as a perfect example. One million people have been moved out of their old towns, and relocated to new, higher areas, above the rising water behind the dam. This was an easy thing to do, for "the government" just said, "We are moving you up to here" and you are moved. Period. There is no discussion about these things. And, the thing that totally amazed me: nobody argues about it. Nobody says, "Hey, I don't want to do that." You are TOLD, and you DO. End of discussion.
Ask a question that someone doesn't want to answer, and you will get one of two things as a response. Either, "I don't understand" or they will essentially ignore the question and answer something different, AS IF they did not understand. They understood perfectly, but it is not an answer they are willing to give.
One of our young men on the trip cornered one of the young ladies at the college. He asked her if they ever discuss or talk about democracy or a government run BY the people. The answer was, "As long as we keep that kind of talk IN the classroom, it is OK."
Interesting stuff. Interesting people. Interesting country. Amazing journey.
I hear zippers on her bag running, which says she is done. My turn.
OK, now it is after breakfast. Everybody is leaning toward California this morning. The feeling of the trip is "Lets get going home" even if it is hotter than blue blazes around there!
Breakfast is always some sort of buffet. Bacon, usually sausage, this time in a bit of a tomato sauce, several different buns or rolls, even a sushi rice roll. Baked sliced tomato, with a little seasoning on the top, coffee that would clean greasy auto parts, scrambled eggs if you wanted to wait for one person to fry or scramble it for you, juice, some fruits of various kinds, and usually a series of salad items. So, it is a decent breakfast.
I have been able to be certain that I got a goodly share of fruit and vegetables on this trip, so that I could stay with my dietary needs to at least SOME extent. I will be very interested to step on the scales in the morning. I was at 254 on Monday morning when we left. Regardless, I was not able to bring any of my dietary items with me. It just was not practical. In essence I have had a "vacation" from my NutriSystem Diet on the trip. I have eaten some bread, but was very careful. I stayed away from the rice most of the time, and I probably ate too much meat and protein. Some of the dishes at the buffets was typical steam table Chinese fare such as Sweet and Sour that had been deep fried first. And, similar to the US CHinese dishes, there was a goodly amount of fats and oil present. But, regardless, I can take care of any weight gain when I get home.
So ... it is now time to fold things up, pack the very last and this computer, and head out. We still are 40 minutes from "Luggage in the Lobby" time at 10:30, but things are good. The last potty stop on porcelain that is not moving ... and we are about on our way.
The next thing you will hear from us, will be from Springville.
Later. And thanks for riding along.
Brent and Sharon on our way from Shanghai to Home!
Tuesday, July 25 – 4:49 PM China – 1:49 AM PDT - Onboard our China Eastern Flight
The trip to the airport was uneventful, except ... for an amazing ride on a high-speed train. The train runs from the edge of Shanghai to Pudong International Airport. The rail line is a very smooth ride at a maximum speed of 431 Kilometers Per Hour. This converts to 267.81 MPH. And it takes only 3:14 from the terminal to reach that speed. In 1:00 we were at 144 KPH (89.47MPH). After 2:00 the speed was 289 KPH (179.57 MPH) and at 3:14 we hit 431. The ride is smooth and the acceleration is felt though not as much as a jet on takeoff roll. In only 7:20 the entire ride is over with the train coming to a stop at Pudong Airport.
The name is the Maglev Train. I made the assumption means that it is named for "magnetic levitation.” Of course the station name, Longyang, drew a chuckle from most of us.
We all left some things on the bus while we rode the Maglev Train. Of course our big bags were all still under the bus. When we got off the train we found our three busses, reacquired our baggage and got into a line to get boarding passes and check out bags.
When we arrived at the counter I noted that one of the bags was 29.9 KG (65.91 lbs) and the other was 36.4 KG (80.24 lbs). Nobody said anything though the rule is supposed to be 70 lbs per bag. We are allowed two 70 lb bags each. With our two big piggyback bags we were certainly well under our total 140 lb maximum. The bags, even though they are heavy, are still relatively easy to handle.
We have already been handed our US Customs form to work on. I will see what I can do to make that a finished project.
However, the power plug works on my chair-back this flight, I am connected to power so my battery is not running down! Yes!!!
Obviously this is not going to be sent until I get home, but I also have another 47 pictures to put up too.
2:22 Am and ONLY another 10:30 or so to go! Actually they announced that the flight would be 11:20, and we were rolling at 3:48 PM If their estimation of flight time is accurate, that will put us on the ground in LA at 1:08 PM PDT. That is a little later than we had hoped, but we will still be home before dinner!
I have to do some grocery shopping before we go home, so will take Patty and Frank home, then swing by SaveMart and pick up some salad stuff for the next few days.
Tomorrow there will be a wrap-up Epilogue of the trip and a few thoughts on China.
(If you have questions about anything you read today, contact me through the web site. Click on Advertising, and in the middle of the page is a direct link to my e-mail.)